UNKNOWN GOLDSMITH, Byzantine
Pala d'Oro11th-13th centuries, 1345 (restored and embellished)
Gold and enamel, 348 x 140 cm
Basilica di San Marco, Venice
Andrea Dandolo (doge 1343-1354), a literary scholar articulated the ideal of the doge as the personification of the Venetian state. He made his concept of the ducal office evident in a major artistic project that built upon the work of several of his predecessors. This was the embellishment of the Pala d'Oro, the great golden altarpiece above the high altar of the doges' own chapel, St. Mark's Basilica.
The original altarpiece consisted of a number of enamelled gold panels depicting saints. The Pala d'Oro was commissioned in 976 in Constantinople by Doge Pietro Orseolo I. A later doge, Ordelafo Falier, enlarged the altarpiece in 1105, and yet more panels were added in 1209. In its present dazzling form, however, the Pala d'Oro dates from 1345, when Andrea Dandolo added a sumptuous Gothic-style gold frame, some new enamels, and an enormous number of pearls and precious stones, including rubies, sapphires, and emeralds. He also added two inscription blocks, commemorating his own contribution and those of his predecessors.
Dandolo called on Paolo Veneziano and his workshop to provide painted wooden panels to cover the enamels on non-feast days.